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Understanding the Quality of Government in China: The Cadre Administration Hypothesis
Working Paper

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CDDRL Working Papers

April 2013

China’s remarkable development poses a problem for theories that have stressed the importance of institutions producing “good governance” and minimizing corruption.  As a possible solution to this problem, the following ten arguments are presented:  1) Current research presents us with two very different concepts of governance; 2) Only one of these can serve as the basis for an operationalization of “good governance”; 3) In this approach, labeled “Quality of Government” (QoG), it is argued that QoG should be distinguished from “quality of democracy”, implying that; 4) the definition of QoG should be confined to the execution and implementation of public policies; 5) Using a “public goods” approach to corruption, QoG can be defined and measured in a universal way using impartiality in the exercise of public power as the basic operational norm; 6) As with representative democracy, QoG can be institutionalized in very different ways; 7) Most western scholars have confused countries’ specific institutional configuration of “good governance” with the basic norm for QoG which; 7) has led to dysfunctional policy suggestions for developing countries;  8) Beginning in the 1990, the public administration in China has used performance-based management as its main operational tool; 9) This specific type of public administration can be conceptualized as a cadre organization – a non-Weberian model for increasing QoG, that has been neglected both in public administration research and in the institutional theory of development; 10) The cadre organization model, which is also found in the West, solves the perennial delegation problem in public administration, which can explain why China has thrived, despite not having a Weberian rule-of-law type of administration and scoring relatively high on standard measures of corruption.

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